Monday, 14 May 2012

A Penny for them

One of the things about being a mother, and particularly a mother to four children, is that it defines who you are to other people. The moment you confess to parenthood you open yourself up to the judgement of others - from the glowing, usually unwarranted, praise at your ability to conceive, through the well-meaning advice of friends and family, to the looks and comments of those who clearly think that you have no right to be a parent at all.

For a long while, that was just fine. I was just as impressed by my ability to conceive, equally condemning of my failures to get mothering right. And why would I ever want to talk about me, when my children were clearly so much more interesting, intelligent, and downright beautiful than I had any reason to expect.

They still are more interesting, intelligent and beautiful than any other people ever born, but somewhere along the way I realised that I couldn't take the credit for that when I'd never had any real idea how to bring them up. I used to joke that each of them was an experiment and that I still hadn't learned how to do it properly, then I realised it wasn't really a joke. And with that came the recognition that, if I couldn't claim the credit, people's judgement of me had no real basis or reality.

But they carried on assessing my value on the presence of my children.

"I wish I'd achieved something more, something that would leave a mark of my time here on earth"

"Oh, but you've got four interesting, intelligent, beautiful children - you should be proud of that"

And I was. I am. Except...there was a part of me that wanted to be just me.

So it got to the stage, when I met new people, that my kids weren't the first thing I mentioned. I waited until people had formed at least a vague impression of me, before I made a slight, casual, reference to their existence. When I started writing this blog, it was a while before I wrote about any of them; I didn't want to be viewed in that particular way, I didn't want to be labelled a 'mummy blogger'.

And two years ago, when my grandson came along, despite being as pleased as possible, and totally overawed by him and the fact that I have a grandchild, I made only a passing reference to his birth, lost in a longer post about Formula 1 and football.

Then two months ago, my first grand-daughter, Penny-Rose, was born. Since then, I've gradually realised that my views have changed. I find myself wanting to talk about her, and the others, more and more often.

Working full time, I don't get to see her nearly enough, but I saw her this weekend. She is already beautiful and I have no doubt she will turn out to be interesting and intelligent too.  So I sat there holding her, singing long-remembered rhymes and talking to her in that high-pitched, over-animated, way. I grinned inanely when she gave me a first real smile, just as I did with her mother so many years ago and as I did so, the years fell away. I was twenty again, excited and petrified that I had a baby to love and care for, knowing nothing about being a mother, but also knowing that it was the best thing I could or would ever do.

I still want to achieve something in my life, I still want to be judged for the mark I leave behind of my time here on earth, I'd love people to think that I'm interesting, intelligent and beautiful. But if that doesn't happen, and there's every chance it won't, then how can I possibly think it's a bad thing for my worth to be assessed for the  presence here of my children - Claire, Gerard, Charlie, Megan, my grand-son Eddie and now my new grand-daughter Penny-Rose?

As a grand-mother, I have the chance to experiment all over again, an opportunity to have the slightest influence on the person she'll turn out to be. And who knows? I might even learn something this time.


Anonymous said...

What a sweet baby. Lucky gammie.

mapstew said...

The folk who love us will remember us, for all the right reasons. The rest don't matter.

Looking forward to the day I become 'Granda', though I sincerely hope it doesn't happen anytime soon! :¬)


Shrinky said...

Of course, along with the credit comes the blame (shrug), neither of which is just or usually asked for (aside from those whose entire identity and reason for being lies in "being a mother").

Thankfully, as multi-taskers, most of us manage to emerge still proudly clutching our possibilities, able to thumb our noses at the naysayers.

Gorgeous grandbaby!

Nessa Roo said...

She's absolutely gorgeous! Of course, not nearly as gorgeous as my grandchildren, though you may disagree.
I understand about wanting to keep a little of yourself for yourself. I have the same feeling that I could completely lose my identity in those kids.

raymond alexander kukkee said...

Sharon, you ARE interesting, intelligent, and beautiful --and a great writer.
Now you also have a beautiful granddaughter--who you will encourage to be interesting, intelligent and beautiful. She will remember YOU, and she is part of your legacy.
GREAT post--expressing complexities of the human condition --of one recognizing the passage of time --self doubt and the universal wish for immortality.
Be fearless. Your potential legacy is turning out beautifully!

MerCyn said...

She is beautiful - Does she look like you?! I think we have kids so eventually we can enjoy their
gift to us - the grandkids!

Shea Goff said...

Bravo. She is absolutely gorgeous. And so are you, which kinda makes sense 'cause, ya' know, the whole genetic thing. ;)

Pearl said...

Oh, my word, what a gorgeous baby. You see the light in those beautiful eyes?!

Lucky you. :-)


Young at Heart said...

I'm sure you blamed yourself for the ills that fell upon your kids so take the glory for them too!! You are very desreve does your daughter with such a delightful baby!!!

The Elephant's Child said...

She is just glorious. Wow!

Zahir Shah said...

Cute... Lucky baby to have such a wonderful Grandma. Over the time she will adore you on a different scale and level than she would adore her mother. This feeling will not in any way be compared or contrasted but will contain the purest and noblest affection.

Mrs Smith said...

I hear every word of this post -for the offspring to survive the experiment of being raised and to have offspring of their own and to leave a wider legacy, a mark on the Earth, as you have with your words and thoughts -that is the dream.

steven said...

i love the increasing objectivity i can have about my children as they grow older. how i recognize them as people. how they recognize me as a person. steven

Pat said...

The circle of life: time was when I was sick of being jut an adjunct - a wife, a mother, a daughter so I became just me.
Fast forward a couple of decades and now I am happy to be a wife,a mother, a grandma - and me.
Lovely baby.

owo said...

I loved this piece.

I've always been adament that I won't be seen as just a mother. You might even say I've gone to extremes sometimes to ensure that I'm not. So even though we approach the subject from different directions, I understand what you mean.

You shouldn't worry. Having met you, I can confidently say you are all those things - interesting, intelligent and beautiful. Enjoy your new grandaughter...teach her how to be a frog.

Chantel said...

How eloquently you write of the very uneloquent battle that has warred within me. It's one of those struggles not often spoken of in person, as to say, "I want to be known for ME" comes across a bit selfish to most. When I was younger, I fear I split those selves....the older I get, I find they can live with each other, even have coffee.

ps. I've always loved the name Penny.

Susan Cooper said...

For those that would judge you because you are a mother and now a grandmother, I say Pooh on them. They don't deserve your time or energy of thought.

Mothers are the reason we exist. Be proud of what you have accomplished, and that includes your children and grandchildren. :-), Susan Cooper

Bea said...

'The blog with the really good writing' is how I think of your blog.
Thank you for sharing Penny and your thoughts.

ND Mitchell said...

Lovely post. Congratulations on your very cute grand-daughter! I always look forward to reading your posts. Your writing always has something interesting to say about life.

Sharon Longworth said...

You lot really are a lovely bunch - thank you for all your kind words.

Mybabyjohn/Delores - she is rather sweet isn't she? Oh, and I love the term Gammie - that's one I've never heard before!

Mapstew - Oh, I do hope so... I hope too that you get to be a Grandda, but not too soon. I used to tell my kids I refused to be a grandparent before I was fifty - and strangely enough they kept to that. Now there's a bit of me that wishes they'd started earlier.

Shrinky - yep I've been on the receiving end of some blame, mixed up with a whole cartload of guilt - I've never quite learned how much to take it all to heart.

Nessa Roo - thank you! Shall we just agree that we both have gorgeous grandchildren?

Raymond - you are far too kind, but thank you.

Sharon Longworth said...

MerCyn - thank you! I can't see any of me in her at all, but then I couldn't with her mother until the last couple of years, and she slowly seems to be becoming more and more like me - so who knows?

Shea - let's hope the genetic thing gives her all the best bits and leaves out the rest...

Pearl - thank you and yes I am lucky aren't I?

Young at Heart - why is blame always so much easier to accept than praise?

The Elephant's Child - thank you!

Sharon Longworth said...

Zahir - what a wise and reflective comment - thank you.

Mrs Smith - I'm so glad it resonated with you.

Steven - it's hard to predict or spot when children and parents become people - but it's rather marvellous when they do isn't it?

Pat - yep, that circle of life thing - both predictable and unpredictable.

Sharon Longworth said...

OWO - really glad you understood what I was saying and thank you for being lovely. Oh, and helping her to become a frog seems like a perfect role for a grandma.

Chantel - you've caught the dilemma so well - that balance between preserving your self and being selfish. I'm glad you've found a way to reconcile the two. And I think Penny is a smashing name too!

Susan - I always think I shouldn't worry what others think of me - but I'm still learning how to achieve that! Thank you for your kind words.

Bea - that's a smashing thing to say - thank you so much.

David - and thank you too for a smashing comment - I'm more than glad you enjoy my writing.

Bill Dameron said...

Oh Sharon, she is beautiful, and so is her name. But you know what? Your words are just as beautiful and they both can co-exist. So, you mark on this world will be remembered. Both for the beautiful children you created and for the beautiful words. You are doubly blessed.

Hillary said...

Congratulations on your grandbabies, Sharon, and congratulations and blessings to them and their parents. Parenting is such a long, hard job - I use to think it was all intuitive, Ha! - but you are right in saying it is the best thing we can or will ever do.

Cle Reveries said...

The best thing created by God is a mother. It's the most important, beautiful and difficult gift He has given us!
It's wonderful to be a mother and a granny too!
Your baby testify that!

Olga said...

Congratulations! With a child in the family, it is an opportunity to experience another childhood.